Preseason polls are not necessarily reliable predictors of any particular team’s success. They should rather be viewed more as general perceptions on the state of programs. Naturally, those perceptions will change as the actual college football season unfolds, but the arrival of the first rankings always helps fuel the anticipation for the coming games.
It is in that spirit of anticipation that we present the preseason USA TODAY Sports AFCA coaches poll. It should come as no surprise that some familiar names will be at the top entering the 2022 season.
Perennial playoff participant Alabama will open as the No. 1 team. The Crimson Tide, who received 54 of 66 first-place votes, enter the season as the top-ranked squad for the seventh time in 13 years. That might come as unwelcome news for ‘Bama fans, however, as the Crimson Tide finished as national champs in just one of those six previous seasons when they opened at No. 1.
Ohio State will open with the No. 2 ranking. The Buckeyes received five first-place votes and finished just ahead of defending champion Georgia. The Bulldogs picked up six No. 1 votes following their long-awaited national title but will start off this year third. Clemson and Notre Dame round out the top five. The Tigers, hoping to bounce back after a 10-3 record last season, earned its lowest ranking in the preseason poll since 2017.
OUTLOOKS: A closer look at every team in college football's preseason poll
Michigan, the defending Big Ten champion and a playoff participant last season, will start at No. 6, followed by another SEC challenger, Texas A&M.
Utah, coming off its historic Pac-12 title campaign, begins at No. 8, its highest-ever starting point. The Big 12 claims the next three positions, though No. 9 Oklahoma’s preseason ranking is its lowest since 2015, and No. 10 Baylor’s is its highest since 2014. Oklahoma State rounds out the Big 12 trio checking in at No. 11.
The three SEC contenders in the top 10 are joined by No. 21 Kentucky, No. 23 Arkansas and No. 24 Mississippi to give the conference six ranked members in all to lead the poll. The Wildcats, best known for its prowess in some other sport, has its highest preseason gridiron ranking in program history. Usual contender LSU, on the other hand, will open the campaign outside the Top 25 for the first time since 2000.
The ACC is next with five ranked teams, with No. 13 North Carolina State and No. 19 Wake Forest claiming their highest preseason ranking ever and defending league champ Pittsburgh getting its highest starting position at No. 16 since 2010.
The Big Ten and Big 12 have four ranked teams each. The Pac-12 has three, and the American has a pair with No. 22 Cincinnati joined by No. 25 Houston. Notre Dame is the lone ranked independent as Brigham Young finishes fourth among others receiving votes.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: College football coaches poll Top 25: Alabama No. 1 ahead of Georgia